In late May Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting pitcher Jameson Taillon made a change to his pitching repertoire when he started to throw a slider. Quickly, this pitch has become a weapon for the righty.
On May 22nd, Jameson Taillon made a start for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Cincinnati Reds. In this start Taillon did something he had not done before – he used a slider. Beginning with this start, Taillon’s slider has developed into a weapon.
Prior to his start on May 22nd Taillon had not been bad in 2018, but he had not been the pitcher many had expected either. In nine starts, he owned a 3.97 ERA, 4.24 FIP, his strikeout rate was 20.8%, and he was allowing 1.19 HR/9.
In his past five starts, Taillon owns a 3.90 ERA, which is inflated by defensive miscues and bullpen struggles that were not his fault, a 2.94 FIP, he is striking out 23.7% of batters faced, and his home run rate has fallen to 0.84 HR/9. His walk rate has also dropped from 7.8% in his first nine starts to 4.6% his last five.
The biggest reason for Taillon’s improvement? His slider. While Taillon’s curveball remains a very good pitch, an argument can be made that his slider has already become his best pitch.
|Pitch Type||Whiff Rate||Opponent Slugging %||Opponent wOBA|
While Taillon’s slider has not generated as many swings-and-misses as his curveball has, opposing batters own a lower hit rate against it. His slider has also been hit with less power than any of his other pitches, too. Also, the 84.4 miles per hour average exit velocity that opposing hitters own against his slider is both below the MLB average, as well as the lowest of any of his pitches.
When looking at FanGraphs pitch values for Taillon, his slider rates out as his most effective pitch. It truly is impressive – and a testament to Taillon’s talent and work ethic – that his slider has become so good so quickly.
The addition of the slider has also benefitted Taillon’s other pitch. Due to this new weapon, Taillon has been able to throw his fastball less. It also gives him another outpitch to pair with his curveball, which, in turn, makes his curve more effective.
Arguably the biggest development to come out of Taillon’s added slider is the fact he can now use his changeup less. As you can see above, the changeup has not been a good pitch at all for Taillon this season. Pirate pitchers not named Felipe Vazquez seem to have a ton of issues with throwing an effective changeup, and Taillon is no exception. With the addition of his slider, though, he has been able to use his changeup less which has been addition by subtraction for his pitching toolbox.
While Jameson Taillon has only thrown a slider in his last five starts, it has already become a weapon. He will get to unleash it next against the first place Milwaukee Brewers this evening as he looks to try and help pitch the Pirates back to a winning record and one game closer to the first place Brew Crew.
*- pitch data via FanGraphs and Baseball Savant